PEF Raises Concern over the Future of Services for New York's Most Vulnerable Citizens

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ALBANY, NY (02/14/2012)(readMedia)-- New York State is on the fast track toward Medicaid managed care that would nearly, if not totally eliminate state-provided mental hygiene services. Today, Pat Baker, vice president of the New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF), warned lawmakers of the long-term implications on the most vulnerable New Yorkers if these proposals go forward.

"Several elements of the proposed Executive Budget aim to provide integrated health care at a much lower cost," Baker said. "What we should pay attention to is a diminishment of quality in services and the unraveling of the safety net on which our most vulnerable citizens rely in times of crisis."

Baker testified at the state Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees' hearing on Mental Hygiene in Albany. The proposals include giving the state Office of Mental Health (OMH) unlimited authority to reduce beds and close facilities statewide with only 30 to 60 days notice and virtually no input from the people who depend on these services or the professionals who provide them.

"One facility slated for closure is Kingsboro Psychiatric Center in Brooklyn, which is identified as the single highest user of mental health services in the state," Baker testified.

Similarly the state Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) would provide managed care for the disabled by a network of not-for-profit providers.

"Long-term residents of state-operated group homes are being moved out of their homes to make room for individuals being discharged from institutions. For some, these are the only homes they have known for decades. OPWDD claims to put "people first," yet here the people are last, and the money is first. It is shameful," Baker said.

Additionally, the state hopes to privatize the care and security services for sexual offenders now in OMH units. Baker warned lawmakers the state determined these offenders to be too dangerous for release into the community at the end of their prison terms and not to become complicit in creating this threat to public safety.

PEF is the state's second-largest state-employee union representing 54,000 professional, scientific and technical employees and other public and private employees.